Category Archives: Human Inspiration

Angels on the Road: Highway Breakdown

This past Sunday evening, at a dark and dismal highway rest stop somewhere between California and Arizona, our car broke down. With all the spectacle and force of Yellowstone’s “Old Faithful” geyser, caustic anti-freeze steam rose from the car’s engine, giving off a sour smell that turned rancid as fumes touched our tongues. Violent bursts of boiling hot greenish water erupted from within the radiator and from deep within the engine’s bowels, scorching the asphalt landscape underneath.

We had been traveling with a fully-packed car and a fully-packed trailer, making our way from California to Arizona. “We” included me, Mark, and Mark’s son who only weeks earlier decided to take the big leap from High School graduation in California to the possibilities of college education in Arizona.

Besides crossing state lines, Mark’s son also would be leaping from living with his mother to living with us. To be honest, this part of his decision was ground-breaking, heaven-blessed news. No sooner had he said YES did we empty our teardrop trailer to make room for a mattress, clothes, and everything else one accumulates in 17 years of living. Over a three-day weekend, we made the seven hour trip to Cali before the whims of teenage change shifted out of our favor.

But halfway along our jubilant drive home to Arizona, just about an hour before we expected to exit California, we got the message from the universe, “Whoa! Not so easy!”

There we stood at a highway rest stop—sun setting, front hood open, puddles of hot water at our feet—realizing we had more to deal with than waiting for an engine to cool. We definitely had a significant leak somewhere and only so much time left in our flashlight battery life to successfully diagnose just where.

Compounding our problem, Mark couldn’t fit under our low-profile PT Cruiser to diagnose where he needed to. Even if he could locate the car jack buried under boxes in the car, we both knew he wasn’t small enough to fit underneath the car.

That’s when I saw it . . . “the look” on Mark’s face.

He did his best to poker-face through troubleshooting, but the look dripped out and spilled all over his face. The look said, we’re screwed.

At a minimum, we needed a repair shop, a replacement hose, and more than a snow cone’s chance in Hades that we could have our car AND trailer towed for less than a small fortune. We already knew the chances of any repair shop or auto parts store being open late Sunday night were slim to none. We also knew chances were slim the next small town would even have those options available, let alone hotel accommodations if we had to wait till morning.

As for our trailer, leaving it behind in favor of having the car alone towed demanded our up-front acceptance that said trailer would likely be stolen or ransacked before we returned to claim it.

Reality dictated we had to deal with our dilemma alone. Even though Mark knows his way in and out of engines, unless he magically lost 50 pounds, there was no way he could fit under and fix the car; hence, “the look.”

Shortly after that realization, from out of the dark, a black car backed up to ours. Out from it appeared a man of small stature, wearing a neat, white shirt and light-colored shorts that hung well past his knees.

“Jou got problems with jour car?” the Spanglish-speaking man asked Mark.

“Uh, Yeah, but it’s no easy fix. It’s leaking somewhere underneath, but I can’t get under to find it.”

“I mechanic. I help.”

“But we can’t fit under . . . ”

“Under car? No problem. I fit,” the man said.

“No. You can’t. It’s too tight, and you’ll ruin your . . . ”

“I fit!” he said, waving an arm behind him, shushing away Mark’s concerns while bee lining to the trunk of his car. Within seconds, he emerged with a sturdy car jack. We had already rolled the front left tire onto a low curb, but the little man jacked it up even higher and gave it a good shake to make sure it was stable. Without hesitation, he slipped under the car on a blanket we laid down to protect his body and clothing.

Mark and I looked at each other in quizzical amusement, as if to say Are ya’ kiddin’ me? Who IS this guy?

“An angel,” I uttered out loud.

“No kidding,” he said, and then called down into the engine, “Hey, what’s your name?”

“Rodrigo,” came the reply.

“Rodriguez?” Mark asked.

“Rodrigo.”

“Rodrico?”

“No, no.”

“Hey, how about I call you Rod?”

“Okay,” Rodrigo said, clearly relieved.

Eventually, after lots of radiator water refills, engine turnovers, and poking around our car’s underbelly, “Rod” emerged with the broken hose. Just what Mark did and didn’t want to see.

Rod checked the time on his watch, looked up at the black sky while his brain ran a calculation. He shook his head right, left, and back again, saying, “Las nueve. Auto parts closed.” He let out a weighted sigh, so we did too. Screwed.

Then Rod perked up. “I want to try . . . ” he said, as he animated for us that he would cut the damaged end off the hose and try to re-seat it.

Mark had his doubts. The hose was very short already and seemed to be an exact, necessary length. “I see what you’re saying, but I think we’re gonna need a new hose.”

“I have hose,” Rod said.

“What?” Mark asked. “You have a hose?”

“Si.”

“You have a hose.”

“Si. But we try this first. Okay?”

“You have a hose,” Mark repeated, like a skipping record.

“Si,” he said, signaling Mark and me to follow him over to the trunk of his car. “I pick up today from junkyard, from old Ford car.”

In Rod’s car trunk were several grocery bags of pulled parts from old cars, with several hoses in one of the bags–one of which was a potential match for our broken hose. Also in the trunk were eight bags of groceries. And from inside Rod’s car emerged a young mother and three small children.

Mark held the hose up into the dim light, turning it around, examining it. It wasn’t perfect, but it looked like it could work. I watched his wrinkled brow relax, as he turned his fascination to Rod. “Where did you come from?” Mark asked.

” Qué ? . . . my car,” Rod said.

“No, where did you come from?”

Rod tried again. “Blythe,” he said, but clearly the question remained over his head.

You’re heaven sent,” I said, but Rod still didn’t understand.

For the next several hours, over and over again, Rod disappeared under the engine and emerged with arms covered in black oil. I remained at the ready, handing him several paper towels to clean his arms each time he reappeared. Each time, he eagerly explained what he’d done and found so far, then he and Mark discussed the next thing he was going under to do.

At some point, Rod came up from under the car, covered in oil again, and looked over at his wife, gesturing whether he should take off his white shirt before it was too late. She nodded in the affirmative, saying “Oooooh, Sexy!” while Rod carefully pulled the shirt over his head. We all laughed while he shrugged his shoulders as if to say, It is what it is.

Most of the time, Rod’s wife and children milled around, easily keeping themselves entertained. And Mark’s son, rather than brooding ad nauseum about his battery-dead iPhone and the clear mistake of agreeing to take this trip, instead helped out by taking on the role of water fetcher.

All the while, Mark and I flashed “the other look” . . . the Oh-my-God-we-are-in-the-midst-of-heavenly-intervention-right-now look. We smiled softly at one another, shook our heads in disbelief, and silently counted our blessings.

Even when Rod’s youngest son collapsed into a tear-filled meltdown after he or one of his siblings accidentally slammed a car door on his fingers, Rod checked in on the crying child, but quickly came back to work on our car. Even while the groceries in the back of their car were warming in 70 to 80-degree temperatures, Rod kept working on our car. Even though Rod’s family had been out the entire day themselves and seemed tuckered out, Rod kept working on our car.

Just about midnight, Rod and Mark fixed the car enough to make it drive-able. Whether it would get us all the way home remained in question, but our odds had improved significantly.

Realizing we had a good chance of making it home, we fought back tears and squeezed Rod with heartfelt hugs. I hugged Rod’s wife and thanked her profusely for her family’s great kindness and patience, to which she simply said, “We had this happen to us once. We remember what it was like.”

Mark and I scrounged up $60 between us and gave it to Rod, apologizing for our meager offering. He received it graciously and said, “Remember, you buy good hose from dealer. You return old hose to me. Si?”

“Si. Yes,” we said. His wife scribbled their address on a writing pad for us, which I promptly stuffed on the dashboard of our car. Rod had just offered—no . . . insisted upon— closely following us on the road for the next 40 miles to make sure we were all right. He gave us his phone number in case of emergency.

Forty-five minutes later on the highway, we hung out our car windows, enthusiastically waving goodbye as Rod and his family took the exit ramp for “Lovekin Road.”

“Lovekin,” Mark said. “How appropriate.”

“I think we’ll need to drop off that hose in person,” I said, as I grabbed the writing pad from the dashboard.

“Without question,” Mark said. “I think we’ve made friends for life.”

For the rest of the ride home, Mark and I battled to stay awake. We walked in the door at 4 AM, grateful to make it home. We credited Rod and God for keeping us safe. Every time we almost nodded off in the car, we stirred up conversation again about Rod and the good fortune of his timely appearance.

Like many other folks, we have often pondered, Do angels exist? And if so, Where do angels come from?

We know the answer now. Angels do exist. They come unexpectedly from out of nowhere in exactly the form needed and with exactly what is needed to save us from despair. And apparently, at least according to the information on our writing pad, some angels come from “Blythe, California” and go by the name “Rodrigo.”

According to at least one source on the internet, Rodrigo generally means: “You are a law unto itself. Your tendency is to finish whatever you start. You are tolerant and like to help humanity. You are generally warmhearted and give freely of your time, energy, and sympathetic understanding. You have tolerance and acceptance of the frailties of others. Universal and humanitarian in outlook. This is a very compassionate name.”

We concur. Rodrigo was our angel for the night and lived up, in every way, to the meaning of his perfectly assigned name.

Peace to you all as you travel the highways and roads of life.

May you be as fortunate as we were this weekend to experience and recognize the limitless gifts of the universe.

Love each other. Help each other. Be nothing but kind to each other, and I guarantee it will come back to you a thousand fold.

Love,

Sue J signature

3 Days, 2 Nat’l Parks, 1 Bum Foot: Miracles and Inspiration

It’s early May and we have THREE days to see TWO National Parks with ONE traveler (namely, me) making do with an injured foot. My partner and I rendezvoused with another couple (my brother and sister-in-law) for three days in St. George, Utah, with a quest to see two outstanding U.S. National Parks–Zion and Bryce Canyon, both in southern Utah.

Our original intention was to hike ’til we dropped, but I recently had an untimely foot injury that kept me from going on THIS incredible backpacking trip in Grand Canyon. With a slowly healing foot (torn or ruptured ligament), I couldn’t expect to hike, but still, there was NO WAY I was going to miss out on seeing Zion and Bryce as planned. As it turns out, natural inspiration and human inspiration abounded on this trip.

BEFORE WE EVEN GOT THERE

Human Inspiration #1: Back From the Dead

My party and I set out on a new revised quest–to experience the visual overload of two of the nation’s “wow-factor” parks while functioning within certain agility limitations. To start the quest, I needed to equip myself with the right tools. I scored a decent walking stick at a souvenir shop (Fort Zion Virgin Trading Post, 1000 W. Hwy 9, Virgin, UT) on the way to Zion National Park.

early-American wagon, near Zion national park
An early-American wagon on the property of Fort Zion Virgin Trading Post in Virgin , UT

There I met Dona, a 51-year-old woman working the cashier who shared an inspiring story about herself. She casually mentioned she had died at age 44 from cardiac arrest and lay dead for a full 30 minutes before being revived.

Dona spoke like someone who knew more than most–about life, blessings, and miracles. Her after-life experience was so powerful that she revealed she often wishes she didn’t make it, that life here doesn’t quite “cut it” compared to the peace she experienced when “passing.” Much to her delight, Dona spent time with her grandmother on the “other side” and, much to her dismay, has missed Grandma greatly since.

Still, Dona had a certain strength and conviction about her. A quiet wisdom emerged from her words–something that amounted to: Don’t sweat the small stuff. I felt so moved and humbled to meet Dona, I reached out, shook her hand, and let her know I was happy she was still with us. I felt blessed to meet her. She is one of God’s walking miracles–a reminder for us all to keep it simple, live and love well, and, above all, be grateful. Everything that seems to have value to you can be taken away in an instant.

Zion National Park walking stick badge
Zion National Park “badge”

When I was ready to pay for my items, Dona helped me pick out a badge for my new walking stick (A badge is a nickname for the ‘bling’ sold to dress up, souvenirize–yeah, I know it’s not a real word–and customize your walking sticks). Check out my new badge in the photo.

The image of a wild elk reminds me of Dona and her strength and resolve to keep moving forward with whatever plans God has for her. She doesn’t seem to know exactly where she’s going, what exactly she’s supposed to do, but she has faith that it will all work out. Besides, she already knows how the story ends and is not the least bit frightened about it.

Zion National Park entrance signZION NATIONAL PARK

Natural Inspiration #1

Equipped with my newly decorated walking stick and walking orders from my doctor that I should NOT hike anytime in the near future (What a conundrum!), I set out to discover short, easy trails I could hike in Zion. The first happy revelation was that Zion has a terrific shuttle system that takes you across many must-see stops along a shuttle-only roadway. There is no need to hunt and fight for a parking space at Zion or to walk a long way from your car to the starting point of sights and trails at each stop. There are even shuttles running from nearby Springdale into Zion’s South Entrance if Zion’s Visitor Center parking lots are full. This was a huge concern for me, as I couldn’t envision tackling more than a half-mile round trip at any location, including the walk from transportation to trail head.

On the shuttle, a pre-canned tour guide’s voice provides interesting information about the park, but I have to say it was difficult to see clearly through tinted windows and around multiple obstructions in the shuttle bus framework. You must get out at each stop if you intend to see what there is to see. On the very first stop, we got to see this:

Zion National Park, Utah
Mule deer at Zion National Park
Wild turkey at Zion national park, Utah
Wild turkey at Zion National Park
Zion National Park shuttle
Zion National Park shuttle at the halfway point.

Allow 80 or 90 minutes to do the shuttle ride without getting off at any stops, and you will be rewarded with an 8-minute stop at the halfway point in order to stretch and use the restrooms if necessary. For each stop you get off at, add 10 minutes to your tour time for the next shuttle to appear. If you set off on trails for a short or long hike, shuttles conveniently run into late evening, with the last shuttle leaving the entrance visitor center at 7:30 p.m. in order to complete the full circuit by 9 p.m. Plan accordingly. (Note: shuttle schedule changes throughout the year; check links at end of this article for most current information.)

 

 

 

 

 

I ventured on two different trails at Zion. Even though I didn’t make it to the intended end point of each trail, I saw plenty to satisfy my senses:

mule deer at zion, antlers
Mule deer at Zion. Check out those antlers!

IMG_0612

Zion National Park, tunnels, shortcut to Bryce Canyon, Grand Canyon

The Tunnel From South and West Zion to Zion’s East Entrance and on to Bryce Canyon

Zion National Park: one of two tunnels connecting the east entrance of the park to the south and west of park.

The shortest and most picturesque drive to Bryce Canyon National Park from points south and west of Zion is through the one-mile-long Zion-Mt. Carmel tunnel within Zion National Park near its eastern entrance. Besides the time savings, there are many sights to dazzle your eyes along the way, so it is definitely worth the drive.

 

 

Zion National Park, Checkerboard Mesa, tunnel in Zion
Zion National Park: Checkerboard Mesa, on the road between Zion and Bryce Canyon. A massive patterned rock mountain that begs to be climbed.
Zion National Park, checkerboard mesa
. . . and so we did!

 

Bryce Canyon National Park, entranceBRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK

Natural Inspiration #2

Like Zion, Bryce Canyon has a shuttle system, but it only goes to a subset (albeit an excellent subset) of sights where cars can also go. One of those stops is Bryce Point. We took our car there and saw amazing rock formations in the valley below the parking area. It was here I felt most frustrated about having a foot injury. This is THE PLACE to hike. Something out of a fantasy movie, hikers moved below like elves among towering hoodoos (a name for the funky formations seemingly dripped like hot candle wax or wet sand into spindly spires.) There are hundreds, if not thousands, of these spires scattered across the valley floor.

Bryce Canyon National Park, accessibility, easy access, Bryce Point, hoodoo heaven, easy trail, awesome quick hike
Bryce Canyon National Park: Bryce Point. The trail towards Inspiration Point is easy enough to do a slow hike. Views are spectacular.

We saw this fully loaded bike parked along the fence and all pretty much said the same thing, Man, that bike has BEEN places!

Bryce Canyon National Park, Jeremie Geumetz, France
Wow! Bryce by bicycle. Wonder where the rider is.

Unlike Zion, Bryce Canyon also has a tour route accessible by car. On a Saturday in early May, we had no problem parking at each of the viewpoints. My favorite short hike was at Farview Point where we were able to hike right next to the tops of hoodoos and other formations, like arches and what looked like a 100-story cathedral organ. The winds were strong that day, and the effect on us at certain points on the trail was high exhilaration.

Bryce Canyon National Park, Farview Point, hoodoo heaven, easy trail, awesome quick hike
Bryce Canyon National Park: Farview Point. An excellent “bang for the buck” hiking trail. Take it as far as you have time for, turn around and head back. You’re immediately submerged in hoodoo heaven!
Bryce Canyon National Park, Farview Point, hoodoo heaven, easy trail, awesome quick hike
Bryce Canyon National Park: Farview Point. An excellent “bang for the buck” hiking trail. These hoodoos looked like a 100-foot high cathedral organ. I wonder if music would play if the wind were strong enough.
Bryce Canyon National Park, easy access view, accessibility, hoodoo heaven, natural bridge, awesome views
Bryce Canyon National Park: Natural Bridge, viewable from the parking area.

 

Human Inspiration #2: How Far Determination Takes You

Jeremie Geumetz, France, bicycling South America, Central America, North America, Zion National Park
Hey, there’s that bike again!

At Farview Point, we came upon that bike again. This time, we also came upon it’s owner, the human version of amazing–Jeremie Geumetz, a French bicyclist. When I saw his worn, heavily packed bicycle, I had to know his story.

long-distance bicyling, Jeremie Geumetz, France, South America, Central America, North America
Jeremie Geumetz–a man who clearly LOVES to bike!

“Hi. Can I ask how many miles you’ve traveled so far?”

“I dunno. 17,000 or 18,000,” he answered in a heavy French accent.

Surprised by the response, my brain dug through and re-processed his French-English. “Thousand?” I asked. “Miles?

“Oui.”

From there on, I had a flood of questions, and Jeremie was all too happy to oblige.

Jeremie lives in France. While we were talking, an older couple overheard and joined the conversation, soon discovering they lived only 20 miles away from him, in Belgium.

Jeremie started his trip in Patagonia, South America. His intention is to bicycle from South America through Central America to northernmost North America where he hopes to reach Alaska (weather permitting) by September. With 17,000 or so miles under his belt, he still has another roughly 4,000 to go.

By now, I’d called the rest of my crew over, “This guy has ridden 17,000 miles!”

“When was the last time you shaved?” one of us asked.

He tugged on his beard seeking our confirmation that he understood the question topic, and when we nodded yes, he said, “Columbia.”

“How long have you been on this trip?” I asked.

“Since November 22nd.”

I began counting aloud the number of months since November, “Wow! That’s a long time.”

“2012,” Jeremie said, correcting my counting.

“What?! And why are you doing this? Any particular reason?”

“Not really. I like to bike. We French like to bike.”

And how! This Frenchman loves to bike and he loves to connect with people. He was gracious with his time and patient with our questions–a true gentleman with a warm spirit and a love for life. We all shook his hand as we parted company and told Jeremie repeatedly what an inspiration he was to us. The power of the human spirit is incredible. It can drive us to press toward the outer limits of our existence, to experience something unique and powerful, something that becomes a part of us as we travel through life.

On the drive back to our hotel that evening, we ran into stormy weather. Wild winds whipped our car from every direction. Tumbleweeds raced alongside us on the highway at 60 mph and wicked lightening continuously lit up the sky. The news reports delivered the adjusted weather report: a violent storm was expected to drop two feet of snow at the higher elevations in our area. By morning, the distant Zion mountains were white-tipped, and we wondered and worried about Jeremie. (This is, by the way, the third time recently that my partner and I encountered unexpected snow on hikes in unlikely locations this year: See Snow in Hawaii: Worth the Trip and check out Little Jimmy Trail Camp: Backpacking ‘Sno(w) Problem Along the PCT)

Luckily, before we parted company, I’d asked Jeremie for contact information. I knew I wanted to write about him. Turns out Jeremie has a website; I am listing it here with his permission: www.2rouesvagabondes.fr

He also is on Facebook: Jeremie Geumetz , https://www.facebook.com/jeremie.geumetz

Checking his website for updates, we found out our Frenchman made it through the stormy, snowy night. We also found out he is a talented photographer. Check out his online sites for a dose of inspiration.

Jeremie Geumetz, France, long-distance bicycling, South America, Central America, North America, Zion National Park
Jeremie Geumetz. A Frenchman and a gentleman.

 

ANYTHING’S POSSIBLE

All in all, it is possible to see two national parks in just a few days, even with an injured foot. Whatever your condition or situation, it’s definitely worth the trip. Natural inspiration and human inspiration await you. All you have to do is get in a car, on a bike, or on your feet, and open your eyes, your heart, and your soul to a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Get outside, folks, and make a point of checking out the U.S. National Parks. They are amazing!

Happy Trails,

Sue J.

P.S. Stay tuned for our three-week-long National Park road trip in August where we’ll revisit Utah’s Zion and Bryce (this time for some REAL hiking!), as well as Arches, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef in Utah, not to mention Olympic in the state of Washington, Yellowstone and Grand Tetons in Wyoming. We’re traveling in our homemade teardrop trailer (the Silver Bullet) and will bring our 80-pound dog along for the ride. Should be interesting!


LINKS to Zion and Bryce websites:

Zion National Park:  http://www.nps.gov/zion/index.htm

Zion Maps & Guide:  http://www.nps.gov/zion/parknews/newspaper.htm

Bryce Canyon National Park:  http://www.nps.gov/brca/index.htm

Bryce Canyon Map, Shuttle & Hiking Guide:  http://www.nps.gov/brca/parknews/newspaper.htm


 

Sidebar:

Good Eats Nearby:

Ice Cream at Fort Zion Virgin Trading Post, 1000 W. Hwy 9, Virgin, Utah. Omigosh, the BEST homemade ice cream! Unique and delectable flavors. We had the following three and they all were great: Sea Salt Chocolate Caramel Truffle, Orange Cream & Dark Chocolate, and Hog Wild (Brown Sugared Bacon).

Fort Zion Virgin Trading Post is on Facebook as “Virgin Trading Post/FORT ZION”

Bacon-Wrapped Buffalo Meatloaf at Wildcat Willy’s, 897 Zion Park Blvd, Springdale, Utah, outside the South entrance to Zion National Park. An L.A. Times recommended dish comes with a generous portion of meatloaf (a tasty blend of Certified Angus Beef grinds and buffalo grinds, peppers, onions and seasonings wrapped with bacon, crusted with roasted garlic and cracked pepper) on a mound of garlic mashed potatoes topped with a sweet onion gravy and crispy onion strings. A surprisingly delicate, buttery side of Al dente julienne vegetables finishes off the plate.

Wildcat Willie’s:  http://www.wildcatwillies.com/ordereze/default.aspx

Great Dog Boarding Facility:

Doggie Dude Ranch outside the South entrance to Zion National Park in Rockville (800 E. Main, Hwy 9, Rockville, UT 84763). The owner, Filomena, showed us around her dog boarding facility, a large property running along the length of a stream where she’ll take your dog for a daily waterside walk if you wish. In the summer, the dogs keep cool with overhead water misters or with air conditioning in enclosed structures. Be careful when you visit the grounds.  Humans are as likely to enjoy the tranquil location every bit as much as the dogs.

Doggie Dude Ranch:  http://www.doggyduderanch.com/